Recovering from teacher burnout can be a lengthy journey, full of twists and turns, and surprises along the way all of which can either derail your progress or propel you forward. But how do you know where you are at along your journey of recovering from teacher burnout? How do you know that you’re making progress and not just staying stuck?
When you are deep in burnout, it can be difficult to see the progress that you’ve made. So my advice: determine your starting point, and then, continually check your progress by comparing where you are to where you’ve been to where you are at on your path to burnout recovery and where you still need to go. I get it, that might sound a tad bit daunting, especially if you are already overwhelmed by burnout, so I put together a little something for you…
In this episode, I'm going to be unpacking some heavy stuff. I'm going to take you on what I call the “Burned-In Teacher Success Path”, which I also lay out in my free Stages eBook. In this eBook, I walk you through the six stages of burnout and what you can do to continue to move through the stages on your way to becoming Burned-In!
So I want to start this episode with a story. So last week’s episode was all about the tearer-downers (the crabs) and builder-uppers in your life. I recently had an experience with tearer-downers…on Mother’s day, it was announced on Twitter that Hacking Teacher Burnout was coming out in 2020, and I anxiously awaited people’s positive reactions which was not at all the experience I had. That was the first time in my life that I had experienced a troll, and it was challenging, but it gave me another way to apply the Burned-In Process to my life. The Burned-In Process are strategies that you can have in your back pocket that you can take out and lean on when things get hard whether it's a long drawn-out hardship, such as the pandemic and teaching virtually, or if it's something that just kind of leaps up and smacks you in the face.
I’m not going to go into the details of the conversation that I had on Twitter because that’s not important, what is important is that these moments give us an opportunity to become more self-aware. And if we feel like we've had a negative or a positive impact on somebody or something else, it’s important to have enough self-awareness to ask yourself: Why did this happen? Is this something I can control? Or is it something I can't control? And really, as I talk about in last week’s podcast episode - other people’s opinion of you is none of your business. I really had to internalize this belief and show this person some grace and assume positive intent. Because I don’t mind being questioned if it’s done in a constructive way.
So that being said, at the moment that I read all the comments, questions, and gifs - all the negativity - I automatically went to a victimized place. I was in Stage 0. And I realized that I needed to lean into and apply my Burned-In Process in a new way because - as I say - I am a practitioner of my own process. In this low moment, I knew that I needed to begin where I was and question why I was feeling that way and lean into my Teacher Brand and act in a way that someone with my brand would act. And I knew that person wouldn’t react and would be proactive, and that’s why I’m here. My next step was to reflect on my challenges and get clear on why this was challenging me and affecting my ego the way it did. But my ego isn’t important here, what’s important is setting a good example. That’s why, instead, I’m releasing this podcast episode and answering the question “What is a Burned-In teacher?”
In my Stages eBook, you’ll see that there are 6 stages labeled Stage 0 through Stage 5. And before we dive into talking about each, I want to make sure that you know the names of each of the Stages:
In my eBook, I know only describe each of the Stages of burnout, but also provide a plan for how to continue to move through each of the stages as you’re on your way to becoming Burned-In.
Stage 0: Burned-Out
If you’re in Stage 0, you don't feel like doing anything. You might not even feel like going to work getting out of bed.
In order to move out of this stage, you can begin to change the stories that you’re telling yourself by telling yourself that you’re capable and that you’re worthy of change. You and also reach out and start finding the support and guidance that you’re craving - basically you can start to open up the conversation. Another thing you can do is identify your burnout type. When you do, you’re allowing yourself to say I'm not only burned out but I'm Burned and Over-it, or Burned and Unbalanced, or Burned and Bored.
Stage 1: Build Your Spark
Stage 1 is Build Your Spark. This is where you’re still consumed with negativity or guilt and you’re blaming yourself or others for where you are right now. Your self-talk and your outward conversations clearly reflect your feelings of victimization, and you feel like you're only option is to quit education.
So to get to the next stage, you need to tell yourself, I am capable and worthy of trying something new. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me say this before: If you don't do something different, you will not get different results. So you have to think to yourself, I am capable and I'm worthy of doing something new or trying something new. Give it a try. Try it Out Trevor says: I am brave enough to try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them. Try reaching out to your administrator or a colleague and ask: How do you do that? Also, look for positive affirmations to replace the negative thoughts you’re having or saying. Often, your journey is going to begin and end with your mindset and the stories or the lies that you tell yourself.
Stage 2: Build Your Ignition
Stage 2: Build Your Ignition is where you are now feeling validated. A lot of times when people take the Teacher Burnout Quiz and get their Burnout Type and they start to learn about these different stages on the Burned-In Teacher Success Path, their feelings and experiences are validated. You realize that you're not crazy and you're not a bad person. But instead, you're validated and you're curious. Now you're on your path and you're on your journey, you're starting to ask questions and you're opening conversations, not only about how you're feeling, but you're also asking questions that are moving you forward to solve your problems around the stressors in your daily life. You're starting to actually not just ask questions, but you're starting to seek support, and you're starting to think about the new things that you can do.
Here's how you can get to Stage 3. First, You can tell yourself: I am capable and worthy of seeking solutions and I'm a problem solver, not a problem finder. You can say to yourself: I can figure this out, I can do this and there are options and this is an opportunity. Going back to those benefits of burnout I talked about a few weeks ago, this is an opportunity to change your life, and to change the lives of others. Here are some specific steps you can take:
Brain Dump all your challenges and list the reasons that they're challenging you. (This is Reflect on Your Challenges.)
List two possible solutions to those challenges that you have that are actually within your control.
All of these are just a few of the things you can do to get to Stage 3.
Stage 3: Build Your Flame
The next stage is Stage 3; Build Your Flame. This is where you've identified your triggers, your challenges, and your strengths; and you're now thinking about what you want for yourself, not just as a teacher, but as a human - as a mom, as a sister, etc… This is your chance for growth and positive change. You can tell yourself: I am confident about who I am, what I'm good at, and what I stand for. Things you can ask yourself are: What are my strengths? What do I want to do more? What am I good at? This is also a place where you can start to question your habits and whether or not they are dragging you down, or if they are making you better.
Some things you can do to move to the next stage are to think about your habits and take a personality assessment and reflect on the results. The solution is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy.
Stage 4: Build Your Fire
Okay, so Stage 4 is Build Your Fire. In this stage, you’re now able to be intentional about making progress toward your goals because you're focusing on your strengths, habits, and challenges that you can control, and you continually find yourself inspired by those around you rather than judging them or resenting them.
Stage 5: Burned-In Teacher
When you’re at Stage 5 - you’re Burned-In! If you're here, that doesn't mean things are easy, things can still be hard, but remember, being a Burned-In Teacher is about being prepared for hardship. It's about being prepared for those challenges because they are going to happen. It's not if, it's when. So here's how you become a Burned-In Teacher: You can say to yourself: I am strong, and I am successful. I'm lucky to have what I have and to have options. You can reach out to a trusted colleague or administrator and ask them: What changes have you noticed in me? And to yourself, you can ask: What is my daily plan of action? What are my goals? What is it that I am doing daily to reach my goals?
Here are some things you can do:
You can consistently remind yourself that you are 100% responsible for your own life - that is a Burned-In Teacher.
You can remind yourself that your opinion of yourself is the only thing that matters - that's a Burned-In Teacher.
You can decide on three big personal and professional goals and make them visible and take action on them daily - that’s a Burned-In Teacher.
You make time in your life daily for things that bring you joy - that’s a Burned-In Teacher.
You make a plan of action on your calendar and follow it with discipline and intention - that’s a Burned-In Teacher.
You say no to commitments that don't bring you joy and are overextending you - that’s a Burned-In Teacher.
When you're a Burned-In Teacher, you feel empowered to make solid decisions about what you do and do not commit to, and are as close to balanced as you feel you can be most days. Complete balance is a fallacy. There are times in our lives when we have to focus on things at school, and there are times in our lives when we have to step back from school and focus on our personal life. Look at your daily plan with flexibility and know that even when things don't go the way you want, you are organized enough to get back on track. and to be flexible, You are rewriting your story as a journey that you are grateful for and you’re looking at burnout as an opportunity because you understand that you wouldn't be the person you are today without the burnout. You're grateful for the burnout. You wake up most days with a sense of passion, and a renewed strength that you once thought you never possessed.
You're thinking to yourself: I am capable and worthy of continued growth and progress. You're thinking about what you're grateful for and you're consistently talking about your goals and reassessing how far you've come and how far you need to go. And you're looking and thinking about all of your capabilities. You start each day with gratitude, you make time each week to create an ideal week. A Burned-In Teacher plans for fun and time to do the work that needs to be done to reach their goals.
When you start to feel isolation, shame, stress or overwhelm creeping in, you take action on it instead of letting burnout start to set back in. It takes time to get burned out. It takes a lot of ignoring the challenges and ignoring your Teacher Brand and just going through the motions. It takes a long time for all of that to kind of burnout to fester, and then just dim your flame and burn you out.
Now, the other thing is, is that Burned-In Teachers have a vision. They have a plan. They have discipline and intention. And whether or not you've heard me say that before, I want you to know that it is possible to have a vision, a plan, discipline, and intention.
So now when you tell people I'm a Burne-In Teacher and they ask: What is that? What the heck is a Burned-In Teacher? Now you know, or you can send them to this episode right so they can learn everything for themselves.